Beyond the basket: Sneaks Summer Classic to bounce into La Jolla for a fifth year with a new player

The 2023 Sneaks Summer Classic basketball tournament is coming to the La Jolla Recreation Center on Saturday, July 8.
(Pure Quality Photography)

The tournament’s founders, both La Jolla High School alumni, bring in La Jollan Pablo Fernandez, an adviser to start-ups, a board member for nonprofits and the founder of Secret Table, as an advising partner to help deepen its community relationships.


Community is the name of the game as organizers of the Sneaks Summer Classic prepare to bring their basketball tournament back to La Jolla.

The fifth iteration of the event, launched in 2018 by La Jolla High School 2013 alumni Sawsun Khodopanah and Tyson Youngs, will tip off at 9 a.m. Saturday, July 8, at the La Jolla Recreation Center at 615 Prospect St.

Sixteen 5-on-5 teams will compete in pool and elimination play, with the tournament ending around 5 p.m. One team will take home the Sneaks trophy.

The event is intended to be “a very high-level, family-friendly, fun community experience,” Khodopanah said. Food will include tacos from former Eddie V’s chef/partner Alvaro Hernandez and ice cream from returning vendor Creamy Boys.

More food vendor partnerships are in the works, along with interactive art attractions, entertainment, raffles and additional seating and shade.

This year, Khodopanah and Youngs brought in La Jolla resident Pablo Fernandez as an advising partner for the tournament after Fernandez offered his help last year.

Fernandez is an adviser to multiple start-ups, a board member for several nonprofits and the founder of Secret Table, a company that aims to deepen relationships through community events.

La Jolla resident Pablo Fernandez speaks at a TEDxSanDiego event in March 2022.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

The Sneaks Summer Classic isn’t just about basketball but is a community event with far-reaching impact, Fernandez said.

The tournament is “exactly what our community needs,” he added. “This is an ideal convergence of a handful of things that I really love,” including the community of La Jolla and “anything that’s going to help amplify, bring awareness to … community in a unique way.”

The tournament founders “started this stuff from scratch” and are “still learning our way around bringing value to all the sponsors and partners and setting things up the right way and the experiential aspect of it,” Khodopanah said.

They quickly jumped on Fernandez’s offer to help improve sponsorship relationships and create a more professional offering to players and guests.

The Sneaks Summer Classic will feature food, entertainment and raffles in addition to basketball.
(Pure Quality Photography)

Khodopanah, who recently earned a master’s degree in business administration from San Diego State University, said “trying to learn how to do things on your own as well as trying to find mentorship in a genuine, organic way has been difficult.”

Khodopanah and Fernandez have known each other for years, playing basketball together and traveling in and out of the same circles.

“I resonate with people that just make things happen, especially for the community,” Fernandez said.

The Rec Center, he said, “should be an active daytime gathering space for the entire community. We’re activating it to be exactly that.”

Members of the winning team in the 2021 Sneaks Summer Classic pose with Tyson Youngs (left) and Sawsun Khodopanah (right).
Members of the winning team in the 2021 Sneaks Summer Classic pose with tournament co-founders Tyson Youngs (left) and Sawsun Khodopanah (right).
(Elisabeth Frausto)

The Sneaks Summer Classic’s concept is the same year to year, Khodapanah said. “We always had the same idea of wanting to put on a very competitive basketball tournament and have it be a fun community event that everyone could come together around.”

The 2023 version will function as an unofficial 10-year high school reunion for Khodapanah, Youngs and fellow LJHS alumni, as many former classmates have planned to use the tournament “as a chance for people to all get together,” Khodapanah said.

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